DIOCESE—Earth Day is celebrated globally on April 22 and has been since 1970. It’s a day when we pause to think about our environmental footprint. It’s a day that we celebrate the outdoors and appreciate all its glory. It’s a day to give thanks to God for the beauty that is around us, and it’s a day to ensure that we protect it.
Native Americans do this every day and encourage others to do the same.
On April 22, a webinar will be held with the Diocese of Charleston entitled “Earth Day 2021 with our Native American Catholics” from 7-9 p.m. It will focus on how Native Americans celebrate in song and storytelling the interdependence that humans have on God, the Earth, and all its creatures.
One of the speakers is Deacon Larry Deschaine of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Edgefield, who hails from the Penobscot Tribe of Maine. He said that when he was growing up, the strong connection with God and the Earth was an integral part of his heritage.
“My dad would take me to our ancestors’ land every fall. I have a deep appreciation for Mother Earth. It is my native way of being,” he said.
He owns 20 acres of land in the Edgefield area and uses it to host retreats for adults and children of his parish to teach them how Native Americans celebrate their connection with God and the Earth.
“We do all sorts of things: fishing, boating, cliff diving, Stations of the Cross, meditation gardens, and fireside chats with the priests,” he said. “The property is beautiful, with pine trees and a quarry. It is untouched.”
Lessons from those retreats will be interwoven in the webinar to discuss how Catholic Native American approaches can be used to help people sustain our Earth through current generations and beyond.
Another speaker is Chief Mary Louise Worthy, of the Piedmont American Indian Association Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation of South Carolina and a parishioner at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville.
Chief Worthy reiterated that for Native Americans, “every day is Earth Day”, and encourages everyone to treat our planet with daily respect, as God intended.
“If we mess up the Earth, what do we have left?” she asked.
Chief Worthy said some of her main worries center on over-developing and pollution, noting that it is imperative that “we have to take care of our land.”
One of the topics of the webinar will touch on how the pandemic brought renewal to the planet during forced quarantine and has shined a light on the environment, especially in regard to how life on Earth can continue to bloom as a resilient ecosystem.
“One thing I have noticed is a general increase in sensing how tightly we are connected to each other; that we are affected by the health of each other, the Earth and our environment,” Deacon Deschaine said about the effects of the pandemic. “I think we have become more aware of the importance of how we decide to act when we live together on this planet, and how our actions can affect each other and our common home, whether locally or all over the world.”
Other demonstrations in the webinar will include small scale gardening, and activities and crafts to help connect people to our planet.
“Every part of the Earth is sacred,” Chief Worthy said. “It gives us life, so we must give back to it.”
To register for the Earth Day webinar, visit https://bit.ly/3wiANVK.